WASHINGTON -- What would a healthy John Patterson mean to the Nationals in 2008? Quite a lot. They would like the right-hander to repeat his 2005 performance, when he set career highs in strikeouts (185) and had a 3.13 ERA in 31 starts.

The past two years, however, Patterson hasn't been able to duplicate his '05 season because of nerve problems in his right forearm. He pitched in a combined 15 games during that span. Almost five months after having a second surgery to fix his nerve problems, Patterson, 30, said he is feeling great and ready to play a full season.

In fact, Patterson already is pitching on a mound. Last Monday, he threw 100 pitches without having any problems. During that session, he was able to throw breaking balls.

"I'm doing really well," Patterson said. "I'm throwing five to six days a week. I'm throwing bullpens [three days a week]. ... I've been really excited. It has continually gotten better. I've had some soreness in my body, but those were muscles that I haven't used in a while. My elbow and [forearm] have been really good."

For the first time in Nationals history, there is no talk about trying to put a rotation together. Entering Spring Training, Washington is going with Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, John Lannan and Matt Chico. Patterson believes the pitching staff can surprise opponents this year, provided that everybody stays healthy.

"I think it's actually very, very good," Patterson said about the rotation. "I'm excited about the guys that we have -- the set rotation. If me, Shawn and Bergmann are all healthy and throw 175 to 200 innings, that would be a great rotation. They both showed last year that they have the confidence and the ability to pitch in the big leagues and pitch very well. With everybody healthy, it has to make everybody motivated to work hard and play well throughout the season."